Corporal Punishment of Children - United Call to Support Equal Protection for Children in Northern Ireland
Ending physical punishment of children and meeting international human rights standards has been highlighted in Belfast at an event organised by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and Commissioner for Children and Young People. At the event Julie Morgan AM, Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services in Wales spoke of her experience of introducing The Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Bill. The Bill is currently moving through the National Assembly for Wales’ scrutiny process and seeks to end the physical punishment of children.
The event also heard from the Director of the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children.
Les Allamby, Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission said:
“Most adults wouldn’t dream of raising their hands to strike another grown up. It is not OK for an adult who has caring responsibility for an older person to hit or smack that person. Why is it OK then for an adult with caring responsibility for a child to hit or smack them?” We welcome the visit of the Welsh Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services Julie Morgan to Northern Ireland and the opportunity to raise awareness of this issue. Northern Ireland law still allows the defence of ‘reasonable punishment’ for parents who physically punish their children. We should follow the example of Wales and ensure children receive the same legal protection from violence as adults. We need to bring Northern Ireland law in line with human rights standards and end the corporal punishment of children.”
Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, Julie Morgan AM commented:
“I’m delighted to have been invited to Belfast to share ideas and to discuss the Bill which takes our commitment to protect children’s rights a step further and will help end the physical punishment of children in Wales. If passed, it will ensure children and young people in Wales have the same protection from physical punishment as adults. We believe that every child should have the best start in life and our Bill sends a clear message that the physical punishment of children is not acceptable in Wales. The Bill is the first major divergence between Welsh and English criminal law. If passed, the legislation will be accompanied by an extensive awareness-raising campaign.”
NI Commissioner for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma added:
“We want to be clear that this isn’t about criminalising parents. Parents have one of the toughest and yet most rewarding jobs and for too long now they have been given mixed messages about how to effectively discipline their children. Changes to the law must go hand in hand with positive parenting support and guidance on constructive ways of managing challenging and stressful situations. We need to redefine what is acceptable in how we treat our children and what we teach them through our own behaviour. We want the law in Northern Ireland to send a clear message that no forms of physical violence or force are acceptable in our homes.”
Director of the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, Anna Henry added:
“The international experience highlights that overall, the impact of prohibiting corporal punishment is positive - A recent study has shown that peer violence amongst teenagers has decreased in the countries that have prohibited corporal punishment; and in Sweden, who became the first country to prohibit corporal punishment forty years ago, research shows a positive change in attitudes towards use of corporal punishment, and over time, a decrease in the number of young people involved in various types of crime. Removing the defence of reasonable punishment would allow Northern Ireland to join with more than a quarter of the states around the world to tackle violence by protecting children from physical punishment.”
The new animation on equal protection can be viewed here.